Updated: Jan 14, 2020
With our one-year anniversary approaching this week on Valentine’s Day, we have bubbles on the brain. For centuries, sparkling wine has been a symbol of celebratory moments: landing the new job, impressing a date, getting married, etc. I can remember the first bottle of sparkling wine that I ever opened. I was 18, and I was working as a bar back and stepped in as support on a busy night. I remember fulfilling an order for a bottle of cava and just letting that cork pop out with that resounding noise that we all know. A gentleman who had worked in the industry, much longer than I, gave me advice that I still remember. “When you open a bottle of sparkling wine, hold it at a 45 degree angle and let the pressure do the work. Force the cork back, and let the gas just slip out as if the bottle wanted to whisper in your ear. Think about how loud you would be if you were having sex in a church.” I will always remember that moment and share it as sound advice.
Thinking about bubbles, most people know about champagne, cava, prosecco, and cremant. Let’s switch up a bit. Here at District we have an evolving collection of pet-nats that have been trending in the world of wine for the past several years. What is a pet-nat? Pet-nat is an abbreviation for petillant naturel also known as methode ancestrale that predates methode Champenoise.
So, what’s the difference?
methode champenoise vs. methode ancestrale
Methode champenoise is a process. You start with the base wine that has already fermented. Yeast and sugar are added to initiate the secondary fermentation that traps the carbon dioxide in the bottle. The yeast dies in a process called autolysis and remain in the bottle. The Champagne region requires a minimum of 15 months of aging on the lees (36 months for vintage Champagne). The bottles are riddled in this time meaning that they are resting at varying angles allowing the lees to collect at the top of the bottle preparing for disgorgement. The sediment is removed from the bottle, and a mixture of wine and sugar is added to fill the bottles and, ultimately, determines the level of sweetness.
Methode ancestrale uses cold temperatures to pause fermentation for a period of months. The wines are bottled and the fermentation concludes, trapping the carbon dioxide in the bottle. When the desired level of carbon dioxide is reached, the wines are chilled again, riddled and disgorged just like the methode champenoise; however, no sugar is added to initiate a secondary fermentation.
A lot of professionals in the world of wine, including myself, describe pet-nats as an unfiltered and unadulterated representation of the varietal(s) and the terroir (soil) in which it grows. It is a method that has its roots steeped in tradition with its place at the origin of the sparkling wine that we know today. I feel that we should pay tribute to such a beautiful process.
With that in mind, we are featuring one of our favorite pet-nats this week. It is a white pet-nat from the Loire valley brought to you by Frantz Saumon, one of the individuals responsible for bringing pet-nats to the market in the early 2000s. Frantz’s winemaking style definitely revolves around the word pure. He has always practiced organic/biodynamic agriculture and all of his wines are fermented naturally consisting of vines that are 70 to 100 years old. Let’s open a bottle!
La Petite Gaule du Matin – Pet-Nat – Sauvignon Blanc/Chenin Blanc
As you pop the cap and start to pour yourself a glass, you can’t help but catch the aromas of apple and stone fruit on the nose. They are subtle at first but much more prominent as the wine opens up. The wine is very light with refreshing, soft bubbles that tantalize your taste buds. As you continue sipping, notes of minerals and sweet wildflowers begin to emerge. This is a perfect bottle to open for brunch or a day of frivolity. It’s also light enough to enjoy after a heavy dinner with just enough effervescence to settle your appetite. All in all, it’s a beautiful representation of what a pet-nat should be. We are offering 25% off all our sparkling wine bottles, including pet-nats, in celebration of our anniversary on Thursday, February 14th. Come by and celebrate with us!